I consider myself a pretty savvy traveler. Ive been around the block a few times, so its hard to fool me when it comes to preying on the dumb tourist. This scheme that I was fooled on was a pretty good one and I didnt know I was tricked until after the fact. I will know never fall for a travel scam like this one again.
PrivateGuide, a meeting place for travelers and guides
I had been in Athens for about 2 weeks and had already done all the sightseeing. It was a nice day and I wanted to be outside. So I grabbed my Nikon and set out to practice some photography. I was on my way back to my hotel leaving the park, when a guy entering the park says something to me I dont understand. Immediately I say, “Sorry I dont speak Greek.” and he responds in English, “Do you know what time the Acropolis opens?”
“I think its at 9 am.” Hes holding the tourist map and the pamphlet for the Acropolis.
“Thanks.” he says. “Where are you from?”
“California.” I reply.
“Oh, Ive been there.” Then he begins a story about his travels around the United States. He says he s Italian and he speaks decent English. He is a retired business man, who just sold his interior design company. He is now traveling for a hobby. He tells me his life story unsolicited.
I figure him for around 55 years old. He is slightly chubby and in no way a physical threat. I know what its like to travel alone, so I sympathized with this slightly older man named Antonio.
“My girlfriend is coming out to meet me tomorrow and we are going sightseeing, and then off to the Greek islands.” He pulls out his wallet and shows me a picture of this 20 something bombshell. I immediately think he has money. Then he shows me a picture of his dog and tells me another story of his bowser. We continue talking for about 10-15 minutes and are slowly walking towards the city center.
I tell him Im heading to Santorini with my brother in a few days.
He then asks me if I want to try the typical Greek drink, oyzo. I had not tried it yet and I had planned to do so, and having a drinking buddy would be better than sitting at the bar alone. Plus I thought this guy has money, maybe hell pay.
“I know a place that was recommended to me.” he says. “Follow me.”
That should have been a red flag right there.
I follow this guy off the main streets. Its not a shady part of town, but its off the main grid. We go inside a small bar, maybe two tables and two or three barstools. Hollywood Pub its called. Its weirdly decorated and there are no patrons inside. There is an attractive woman behind the bar and a slightly older one sitting down on one of the tables.
The two of us sit down and the attractive bartender walks over to take our drink order.
“Ill have an oyzo with no ice.” he says.
“Same.” as she makes eye contact with me.
She brings back our drinks and then she sits down next to me and the older woman magically appears and sits down next to him. Red flag. OH oh. What kind of bar is this? I think to myself.
They start making chit chat and laugh at everything Antonio and I say. He seems to know them and his teasing the older one. He calls them both by name. Red flag.
“Buy me a drink? the attractive one asks me. Red flag.
“Im a poor traveler. Ive been traveling for over a year.” I laugh.
Antonio buys the other one a drink and I cave. She returns with a glass of wine for her and her friend. The stupid banter and fake flirting continue. At this point Im trying to figure out what kind of bar this is. They both finish their wine in about a minute. They can tell Im uncomfortable and not fooled by the fake niceties. I figured they were prostitutes or the very least this is a bar similar to the ones in Japan. They eventually leave Antonio and I to finish ours. We finish in about five minutes, and then we get our separate bills.
35 euro for two drinks! I was thinking it would be 10 maybe 14 tops. My jaw drops and he pays his bill. “Expensive huh?” he says.
“Uh yeah.” as I hand over 35 euros to the lady.
Antonio and I head out of the bar. I ask for his email or business card so we could possibly meet up in Santorini. He says he doesnt have one and I have to give him mine. Red flag. We part ways and say goodbye. I know I will never see or hear from him again.the hollywood bar As I walk back to hotel 35 euro poorer, I go over the events of that afternoon in my head.
I realized he played me like a fiddle the entire time. He was in with the two women and they had just scammed me out of my money. The 17.50 oyzo drink was the most expensive drink Ive ever bought and to top it off I realized I hate the stuff. They got me.
I took a picture of the bar and wrote this post for anyone traveling around Athens. Dont fall victim to this trick and if you meet an Italian named Antonio walking around park near parliament, tell him Jason from California wants his money back. Lesson learned. Always ask for a drink menu.
Do you have a travel scam story? Please email me at email@example.com and I would love to post it.